When CenturyVallen’s (now Vallen’s) General Manager suggested we hire via the “Friends and Family” program I lowered my head in dread. We run a busy warehouse and the last thing I needed was a group of low motivation teenagers with no respect for starting times or hard work, bumbling through their days in our warehouse – wandering around texting all their friends how much they hate their jobs and reporting to “the man”. However, summer was upon us, we were approaching go live on a project that eliminated paper in our warehouse for an RF-based system, and we needed the help. The email went out and the moms and dads of our company hit high gear with the email to their teens. The resumes flowed in quickly and we filled six positions almost overnight with shiny new faces – several of them in their first ever full time job.

My expectation – these Generation Y’ers would be a spoon-fed privileged-expecting high-maintenance group who wouldn’t get to work on time if their life depended on it, and it would be all about them and what the company could do for them. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

How about:

  • tech-savvy – they took to our RF handheld devices like ducks to water.
  • achievement-oriented – they checked daily pick counts religiously to see where they ranked and strove to set individual picking records and to be at the top of the list.
  • team-oriented – this is a very social group who thrive in teams.
  • . . . and yes, attention-craving. So it took me 5 minutes to learn their names and I took special care to call them out when I went through the warehouse on my daily or hourly tours. That’s just good MBWA for any generation.

Our Gen-Y’ers were reliable, hard-working, productive, and friendly in our workplace. They all worked right to the end of summer and are hoping for part-time work throughout the school year or first call for next summer’s holiday relief work. My lament was “When I was a student, I busted my butt – always working for next summer’s job and the money for university”. I thought that attitude had been lost. Thanks to Esmeralda, Jessica, Justin, Natasha, Connor, and Tia – you’ve turned the head of this prejudiced Baby Boomer to a new talent pool and ironically, you six have re-shaped my attitude towards an entire cohort. And thanks to Hilda, Robert, Lori, Real, and Yola – maybe parenting has something to do with these exceptional young people?

My advice? There may be hundreds of Gen-Y’ers right now wanting real jobs that pay real money, just not knowing where those jobs might come from. Tap into that cohort and their needs (those electronics cost real money after all). Appeal to them by making subtle changes in your workplace to accommodate their talents and desires and you could be the employer of choice for this group. You can wait for them to find you, but better yet – go get them!


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